By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “30% of EP, S-Pass applicants rejected so far this year” (Asiaone, Sep 10).

It states that “30 per cent of Employment Pass (EP) and S-Pass applicants were rejected as at end July this year.

This is up from last year's total rejection figure of 26 per cent.

He added that 29 per cent out of the total number of rejected applications were for renewals, an increase compared to 21 per cent for the whole of 2011”.

Does this mean that last year, 74 per cent of all applications were approved, and 70 per cent were approved in the first half of this year?

If clamping down means approving 7 of out 10, I wonder what was the approval rate in the past?


No numbers, just approval rates?

No figures were given as to the actual number of new applications and renewals approved.

What can we make out of this omission of the actual numbers?

Well, let’s look at a few possible scenarios.

Scenario 1

The number of new applications and renewal applications may have increased, such that even though the rejection rate increased, the actual number approved may have increased compared to say the previous period.

Scenario 2

The number of new applications increased and renewals declined, but the total of the two may have increased compared to the previous period.

Scenario 3

The number of new applications decreased and renewals increased, but the total may have increased compared to the previous period.

Approval rate alone may be meaningless?

Since you can't tell new applicants not to apply, or renewals not to apply for renewal, it may be quite meaningless to say that the approval rate dropped, without the actual numbers.


Breakdown of new applications and renewals

It may also be good to have the breakdown of the numbers, instead of just the breakdown of the proportion of the total applications' rejection rates that are attributed to the two categories. 


Still 100% can be employment pass?

As I understand that there is no limit to the number of employment pass holders that a company can employ, i.e. 100 per cent of the employees can be on employment passes (with a sub limit of 20 per cent for S-pass), with apparently growing manpower demand as reflected by the growth in jobs created and total jobs, new applications may have increased.

But, we really don't know without the numbers.


New PRs no need to renew?

The other issue may be that as we are granting permanent residence (PRs) every year, the number of renewal applications may have declined simply because they have become PRs, and thus do not need to apply for renewal.


New citizens?

Also, are there any new citizens who were formerly foreigners without having to go through the intermediate step of becoming a PR first?


Foreign population rate of change of growth increase 83%

The above questions and the decline in the approval rate may only deepen the mystery.

Otherwise, how do we explain the 83 per cent increase

What is the change rate of growth on the foreign and PR population for the six months from June 2011 to December 2011, compared to the 12 months from June 2010 to June 2011?


How many working and non-working foreigners and PRs?

Perhaps the increase was largely due to non-working foreigners and PRs.

If this is indeed the case, then it may raise the question as to why on a relative basis, we may be letting in more economically inactive foreigners than economically active ones?

The other explanation may be that the increase may be largely due to foreign work permit holders.

In any case, it may be somewhat difficult to reconcile the impression given by the decline in employment pass approval rate, with the overall foreign population growth highlighted above.

Why is it that we often seem not to be told the whole story on foreign employment, with piecemeal statistics that are often given in drips and pieces, that arguably invites citizens to ask even more questions?

How can we have a meaningful “National Conversation” under such an environment?

P.S. I thought I read somewhere in the media online that “declined to give the figures on the number of employment passes approved” or something along these lines, but I don't seem to be able to find it anymore.